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Open Sprinkler Review

opensprinkler_v20s_5-500x500When Tim installed my irrigation system, he was kind enough to throw in a free irrigation clock that he had sitting around. It’s a standard Hunter model (probably $75-100) and it worked great, but every time I looked at it, I thought about how simple the device really was and that I should be able to control it from my computer. Standard industry offerings are hundreds or thousands of dollars with monthly fees. They’re mostly intended for commercial use.

After a little searching, I found opensprinkler.com. Somebody else had the same idea and made such a nice package that he is able to sell it. The basic model is Arduino based but there are Raspberry Pi and Beagle Bone versions too. I chose the standard model for $155.

Installation was a snap. I labeled all the wires from the existing clock and transferred them over to the Open Sprinkler unit. I also ran an Ethernet cord from the clock in the corner of my garage up into the network closet. (It is SO convenient having the network closet share a wall with the garage!) I turned the unit on and very quickly was turning the sprinklers on and off from my computer. With a little extra configuration I was able to do it from my phone.

Why? Well yes, it’s a toy, but it also makes it very easy to walk around the yard testing zones or turning them on to blow out the line. Also, last summer I’d wake up to hear the rain and realize that my irrigation was scheduled to run in the morning. To avoid wasting water, I had to turn off the house alarm, go out in the garage, turn the program off, come back in, turn the alarm back on, and go back to bed. Now I can just reach for my phone and adjust it… if I even need to (more on that below.)

Aside form the convenience factor, here are some other features that I love:

  • I can completely manage the system from the comfort of my couch instead of standing in the garage.
  • Programs can be set to start based on sunrise or sunset. General recommendations for lawn watering are to do it a little bit before the sun comes up to avoid the hot sun burning off the water but also not let give moss a wet, dark place to thrive. This setting makes that super easy.
  • By checking the weather online, the system can automatically adjust the programs based on the humidity, temperature and precipitation from the previous days. This either means skipping an entire program or just running it for fewer minutes.
  • Programs can be set to run every N days instead of on specific days of the week.
  • You can view a log of when each zone was on. This will be nice when I try to track water usage and also to evaluate how well the Open Sprinkler system is performing.
  • As the software gets updated and perfected, I can update my unit with the click of a button.

All in all, I highly recommend this product so far. As long as it actually does the job of controlling the irrigation system without ever crashing, I’ll be very happy!

Bark

Last weekend I spread seven cubic yards of bark around my house. Thanks to Logan for helping! It took a lot of wheelbarrow loads, but it looks great now. The bark lays nicely over the drip irrigation that I put in place (under Tim’s tutelage) to water each plant. It will help hold in the moisture from the drip irrigation, and, in conjunction with the pre-emergent I put down, it should keep weeds from growing. And oh yeah, it looks really nice too!

bark1 bark2 bark3

Plants

The final step in the back yard and front yard makeover was putting in new plants. We held off last year to spread out the bills and because I was more comfortable installing the new plants at the beginning of the growing season.

Picking plants for the entire yard would normally be a pretty daunting task, but it only took Tim a couple hours to figure out what would look good and walk me through it. He showed up with all the plants and we got them planted in less than three hours. Thank you (again) Tim!

The grass in the back yard heading down to the gate under the magnolia tree never had a chance. The constant wet weather in the winter left a steady stream of water flowing down an area that rarely got sun and it just turned to mud. I gave up on that and decided to bark it over as a walkway down to the gate. I also took the opportunity to make a planter along the fence out to the corner to add a little life to the back yard. You can see that new planter area in the last picture. We had planned ahead for this possibility and there was a drip line stubbed out in the corner.

This week I’ve been working on finishing off the drip irrigation lines and then this weekend I’ll be putting down six yards of bark over the top of all the planter areas. It will look nice and help slow down the weeds.

frontyardplants1 frontyardplants2 backyardplants

Front Yard Project Recap

It was a wild week, but 9 days was all it took to polish off the front yard. We had taken a break after finishing the back yard to recover and also because Tim was re-siding his house. Here’s a rough breakdown of the front yard project:

  • Dad and I started on Friday the 19th by digging a trench under the sidewalk. We picked up the tractor, truck and trailer. Then we used the tractor to fill up the trailer, make a run to dump it, and then scraped off some more sod.
  • On Saturday, Don, Logan and Tim joined in and we made huge progress. The trailer made non-stop runs all day long getting rid of the sod and the dirt that was being scraped off with the tractor. While that was happening, three dump trucks arrived with the new dirt that was replacing the old dirt.
  • By the end of Sunday, all of the old dirt was gone and the new dirt was pretty much in place. We also rented a trencher and in just two hours, we had trenches for irrigation. It might seem silly to trench through new dirt, but we still had a couple more inches to go under the new dirt and it was almost like digging in concrete.
  • Tim and I spent Monday through Thursday evenings out in the yard plumbing for irrigation. It was a wet, soggy mess as we got over 2 inches of rain. I bought a hand pump to help clear out the trenches but there were big sections of the yard that were just completely saturated.
  • We took Friday off in hopes of letting it dry out just a little more. All I did was pick up a few more yards of dirt and left it sitting in the trailer for later.
  • Saturday we started by spreading the remaining dirt to really level everything out. 2600 square feet of sod was delivered, and, with the help of two guys Tim knows, we had it almost all in by 2pm. We returned the tractor, spread one more truck load of dirt, finished off the sod, and then tested out the irrigation.
  • I spent Sunday by myself cleaning up the yard, washing the truck, returning tools, etc.

It’s incredible how much work got done in such a short amount of time. Here are some stats:

  • The front yard added up to 117 hours of labor (compared to 310 in the back yard.)
  • Each load from our house to the spot where we dumped the sod took about 75 minutes round trip
  • 14 trips with the dump trailer to remove the old sod, and there was 3-4 yards in each load
  • 53 yards of beautiful new “supreme mix” dirt added, including three 15-yard deliveries via dump truck
  • 500 miles on Don’s truck for this project
  • 10.6mpg average for the truck while we were making the runs to dump the old sod
  • 3.4 gallons of diesel used in the tractor over the many many hours that it was running

Because our scheduled was so compressed, I didn’t stop to take as many photos or do fancy timelapse videos. Thankfully Tyla and Mom snapped a bunch of photos and one of my security cameras caught some of the action.

THANK YOU once again to all of the friends and family that helped out! We had exactly the right amount of help to get this done. And a huge special thank you to Tim. Without you, this project would never have been attempted. We couldn’t have afforded to pay a contractor to do this, and I don’t know nearly enough to attempt something like this on my own. I loved learning about all this stuff and it was awesome to spend so much time out in the yard working with you. Thanks for putting up with all of my questions, my stress, and my mistakes!

Front Yard Plan

My neighbors have had to look at quite a mess for the past couple months. The back yard is beautiful but all we did in the front yard was tear out all the plants and leave 4-5 yards of dirt piled up in the side yard. We took a break from that project to give Tim time to put new siding on his house. The siding is done so it’s back to the yard project!

The front yard should go much quicker than the back yard did because we’re doing a lot less work. Here’s what is on the agenda:

  • Scrape off all the sod and the top ~6” of dirt
  • Bring in new dirt
  • Add downspout drains out to the street
  • Extend the back yard irrigation system into the front yard.
  • Install new sod

If all goes according to plan, we’ll be done in two weeks. I can hear you laughing now. When’s the last time Tim and I worked on a project together and had it go “according to plan”?